March 6, 2018 – More Key European Votes
On Sunday March 4, 2018, the Italians held their national election. The day before Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) voted to continue its “grand coalition” with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
Germany’s national elections took place last September. The Chancellor’s first attempt to form a governing coalition, without the SPD, failed. More about this is covered in our previous article, November 20, 2017 – Again, Europe Votes
Since the coalition negotiations, clear winners and losers have emerged.
The SPD gained several key cabinet positions formally held by the CDU. And, its pro-EU stance should have even more of an impact in the upcoming government.
Angela Merkel retains the chancellorship but is not expected to be the CDU candidate next time around, and Martin Schulz resigned as SPD’s party head.
DW TV News thought the SPD vote to continue the coalition might be close. Instead, the Yes votes outnumbered the Nos by 66%. Some say the SPD saw it had to agree to avoid the risk of sliding into political oblivion.
A February poll, conducted by INSA in Germany, indicated the far right Alterative for Germany (or AfD) has bypassed the SPD. It’s now the second most popular party in Germany. The CDU-CSU partnership still holds the top spot. Five months ago, AfD was in third place.
The political limbo is considered over in Germany. But it’s just starting in Italy.
Days before the election Wall Street Journal’s Niki Blasina stated, “the March 4 election in the eurozone’s third-largest economy could have serious repercussions for the European Union.” Blasina remarked that,
“The challenges facing the EU are particularly acute in Italy, fractured electorate, a migration crisis, weak economic recovery, anger at legacy parties and dissatisfaction with the EU.”
As with Germany’s past election, no single party won the majority of votes.
The alliance of former Prime Minister Berlusconi’s center right party with with two far right parties — the eurosceptic, anti-immigration League (aka Northern League) and the smaller Brothers of Italy — received the most votes.
One of the three openly promotes what once was. A February 24, 2018 NY Times article titled, Anti-Fascist Protesters Rally in Italy as Mussolini’s Heirs Gain Ground, stated the Brothers of Italy are the “modern heirs of the party that rose from the ashes of Mussolini’s Fascists.”
Another party, the Five Star Movement (M5S) received almost as many votes as the three allies combined. If it formed a coalition with another party, some believe it could effectively govern. But who with? And what really represents the Five Star’s attitude toward the European Union — the strong Exit-the-EU line of the past or the softer tone expressed in the recent campaign?
The rest of the world will just have to wait to see the make up of Italy’s next government.
Photo Credits: Flags by futureatlas.com, License: CC BY 2.0; Chancellor by GlynLowe Photoworks, License: CC BY 2.0; Italian Wall by federico maccagni, License: CC BY-NC 2.0
February 19, 2018 – The State of the Western World
In the Bible, in the book of Revelation written two thousand years ago, we are told that leaders of 10 nations will get together shortly before Christ’s return and be led by one individual. They will take on their roles suddenly. But the exact date and how it will happen are not given.
However implausible that might sound, given the kind of conditions we have in the world, these days its fulfillment is plainly within the realm of possibility.
For one thing, the threat of terrorism lives with all of us now. On February 5, 2018, the US TV show, CBS This Morning, reported that pre-event security drills for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea had tried to anticipate everything conceivable. They ranged from terrorists taking athletes hostage on a bus and then trying to ram a stadium, to a chemical bomb exploding in a trashcan or an overhead drone carrying explosives, plus other threats not specifically mentioned.
Who can deny that the world has changed much since September 11, 2001. A recent movie and a TV show further help demonstrate the times in which we live.
The London Has Fallen movie was released in 2016.
In it, UK Prime Minister James Wilson dies suddenly, so arrangements are hastily made for the Western world leaders to attend his funeral in London.
As the US President arrives at St Paul’s Cathedral, a series of coordinated attacks by terrorists disguised as the Queen’s Guardsmen, London Metropolitan Police, and other first responders kill the other Western leaders, damage or destroy well-known landmarks, and cause widespread panic.
The same year, the American TV series titled Designated Survivor began.
According to an October 5, 2016 ABC News post, What It’s Like to Be Part of a Real-Life ‘Designated Survivor’ Plan,
“It’s the unthinkable doomsday scenario: a catastrophic attack on U.S. soil that wipes out the president, Congress and the upper levels of government, and leaves behind the “designated survivor” to run the country.”
As the first episode unfolds, viewers learn the night of the annual State of the Union Address an explosion in the capital building has claimed the lives of the President and everyone else in the line of succession — except for the individual tapped to be the Designated Survivor.
ABC News wrote,
“It’s the stuff of dark thrillers, but the writers of ABC’s most talked-about new show, “Designated Survivor,” are working off real-life protocols.”
ABC News added,
“When Clarke activated the continuity of government system during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, President George W. Bush was in the air on Air Force One, Vice President Dick Cheney was rushed to an underground bunker and then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert was asked to leave Washington, D.C.”
Other governments undoubtedly have similar plans in place to guarantee some sort of national continuity in such a crisis.
Take Away Message
From February 16 to 18, 2018 an International security conference, attended by many world leaders, was held in Europe. The US Embassy in Germany posted the following,
“From Friday until Sunday, more than 30 heads of state and government and over 100 cabinet ministers from across the globe came together at the Munich Security Conference (MSC) for discussions on major international security challenges.”
The conference title was “To the Brink and Back?”, according to DW TV. At the end of the final day at the conference, chief DW correspondent, Melinda Crane, was asked by a DW TV news anchor, “What is the overall feeling; what has been achieved?
Crane cited some of the numerous topics discussed and informed viewers that it wasn’t at all clear that we’d come to the brink and back.
The world is every bit as dangerous as it was.
Yes, the movie, London Has Fallen, and the TV series, Designated Survivor, are both fictional. But numerous news headlines of the past few years already provide stark evidence that a horrific event of this kind can, indeed, happen in today’s world.
Photo Credits: Blansky art photo by Chris Devers, cropped, License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; London Fallen Poster photo by junaidrao, License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0; Pentagon Attack, USCG photo by Telfair H. Brown, License: CC BY 2.0
December 21, 2017 – Middle East, so what’s next? Part Two
On Monday December 18, 2017, the 15 Member UN Security Council voted 14-1 to condemn the US decision “to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital”. As expected, the USA exercised its veto. This then was followed by a vote in an UN General Assembly Emergency Session on Thursday December 21st.
The United States UN Ambassador Nikki Haley tweeted,
“The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the @UN General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation…America will put our embassy in Jerusalem…This vote will be remembered”.
Haley’s statement and President Trump’s threat to cut off US funding to nations backing the measure encountered strong backlash. And DW TV’s correspondent said that it would not it be seen as a smart move but would further America’s isolation from the rest of the world.
Before the vote, Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu said settlement building will continue and emphatically stated in a video clip on DW TV that,
“Foreign embassies, led by the United States, will move to Jerusalem. Write down what I said; because it will happen.”
The measure to condemn the US plan to move her embassy passed by 128 to 9 with 35 nations abstaining and 21 nations not attending.
The Russian Federation, the UK, most of the rest of Europe, Asia, and Africa joined the Middle East in supporting the resolution. Guatemala and Togo and were among the few who voted with the US and Israel to oppose the measure. Australia, Canada and Mexico were 3 of the 35 who abstained along with Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Romania.
The UN vote was symbolic and non-binding.
Related Story: December 13, 2017 – The Middle East, so what’s next?
Photo credits: UN General Assembly courtesy of EU Council President, License: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
December 18, 2017 – Austria and Her Neighbors
It is International Migrants Day. And December 18, 2017 is also the day Austria’s Prime Minister, Sebastian Kurz, officially became the EU’s youngest leader.
Just last week, as Prime Minister Elect, he formed Austria’s current governing coalition. International newspapers ran a December 15, 2017 Reuters story about it titled, “Austrian conservatives bring far right into government”. Its authors wrote that,
“Austria is set to become the only western European country with a far-right party in government after the anti-immigration Freedom Party and Sebastian Kurz’s conservatives struck a coalition deal to share power almost equally.”
At least one thing the Freedom Party’s leader said seemingly conflicts with the views of a past Freedom Party star, Nazi sympathizer Jörg Haider, as well as many others today. The Times of Israel newspaper December 11, 2017 article, “Austrian far-right leader sympathetic to Israel on Jerusalem recognition”, informed readers that,
“The leader of Austria’s far-right party … expressed sympathy for Israel’s desire to have all embassies in Jerusalem. Yet at the same time, Hans-Christian Strache, the head of the controversial Freedom Party, said that his country is bound to European consensus and cannot act alone in such matters.”
Kurz’s Austrian People’s Party, and their coalition partner, the populist Freedom Party, attracted numerous votes because their anti-migration stance resonated so well with the voters. That also was a defining issue in other recent European elections.
Some advocate a cautious “let’s wait and see” attitude toward the new government. Not surprisingly, others feel that what happened is especially alarming. They fear that the coalition could further energize extreme right elements in Austria, in parts of Germany, and across the rest of Europe.
An ultra-conservative political bloc of several nations continues to set the pace for other conservative groups in Europe. These countries are located in the region immediately east of Austria and Germany.
Deutsche Welle thinks Austria will likely side with the bloc in an ongoing disagreement with Brussels. In a December 13, 2017 article, “EU reignites dispute over refugee quotas ahead of Brussels summit”, DW News explained,
“At the heart of the dispute — and topping the meeting’s agenda — is an EU quota system to distribute tens of thousands of refugees across EU member nations. …”
Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic fiercely opposed the plan from the start and have repeatedly refused to accept asylum seekers.”
One key difference exists between Austria and the bloc; Austria’s Prime Minister likes the idea of a United States of Europe.
Austria’s post-communist neighbors, though, well remember what it was like to be ruled from Russia. The bloc is highly supportive of a common EU defense program (see our related ITN article: ” September 14, 2016 – Push for Militarized EU “) but, otherwise, currently hates the thought of someone in Brussels getting more power to tell them what to do. That too can change.
Watch closely this part of Europe. It might be an initial peek at where the continent is heading.
Photo Credits: Vienna Landmark by Xiquinho Silva, License: CC BY 2.0; Austrian Prime Minster Kurz courtesy of the Federal Ministry of Europe, License: CC BY-SA 2.0.