This Week in Europe: Spanish and Italian Governmental Switches

, by Radu Dumitrescu

This Week in Europe: Spanish and Italian Governmental Switches

Members of the TNF team recount big events from Europe from the past week, and point attention to news that may have passed notice. What did we miss? Comment on our Facebook page at http://facebook.com/thenewfederalist.eu !

Austria seeks to strengthen borders

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has been active this week, giving interviews in which he described his government’s plans for the upcoming EU presidency, which starts on the 1st of July. Kurz places the blame for Brexit on EU migration issues, and highlights the needs for stronger external borders. The Austrian Chancellor points to the swiftness with which his country closed the “Western Balkan route” through which migrants arrived. Kurz condemned the debate surrounding the quotas of refugees for each country, saying that it is the work of “morally superior people who think they have to educate others.”

Finally, Kurz argued that the agents of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, or Frontex, should be mandated to operate in North Africa in order to deter migrants. The agency is set to increase its personnel to 10,000 by 2027, a ten-fold increase compared to the present. Asked about other issues, Kurz reiterated his position that accession talks with Turkey should be stopped. He also spoke in favour of good relations with Russia.

And still this week, the Austrian government decided to unify the separate minimum income schemes of the 9 composing states into a nationwide legal regulation. The main outcome is that the amount of minimum income protection will be made dependent on the German language skills of the recipient, among other things. In this way, the Austria government seeks to limit the “minimum income tourism” of immigrants.

Spain switches PMs

This week, Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party was forced out of office by a no-confidence vote. He was replaced by socialist leader Pedro Sanchez, whose party launched the motion against Rajoy after senior members of his party were implicated in a massive corruption case. Passing with 180 votes to 169, the motion was supported by the far-left Podemos party, two Catalan pro-independence parties and the Basque Nationalist Party.

The now-governing minority government of Sanchez will have to face the Popular Party and the rising center-right Ciudadanos. First item on the new agenda of the new government - the Catalan independence bid.

Front National becomes “National Rally”

This Friday, French far-right leader Marine Le Pen announced that the party created by her father in 1972 will change its name into Rassemblement National (National Rally). The change will occur before the next European elections, following a vote from party representatives. In her speech, Le Pen denounced the “old federalist oligarchy” and its “arrogant tyranny”. The rebranding is seen as a move toward renewal after the Le Pen’s defeat in the last presidential elections, but also as a way of distancing the new party from the anti-Semitism of her father.

Poland’s PiS changes history

In Poland, the governing Law and Justice Party has been using state-controlled media to alter past events and the participants to them. Its representatives ignore figures such as Bronislaw Geremek - a Polish MEP and foreign minister - and even Lech Walesa. Pictures of Geremek signing the NATO accession have disappeared, giving way to the idea of the NATO accession came from an activist that would become a PiS politician. Meanwhile, Lech Walesa, a staunch critic of the present government, is portrayed as an agent of the communist security services, and not as the founder of the Solidarity - that was Lech Kaczynski, Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s brother.

Denmark bans face veils

This week, Denmark became the latest EU country to pass laws banning the burqa and the niqab, garments which the Islamic faith requires women to wear. However, the law allows headscarves and turbans. Danish Justice Minister Søren Pape Poulsen argued that the face veils are incompatible with the values of Danish society. Amnesty International replied that the ban was a violation of freedom of expression and freedom of religion. France, Belgium, Bulgaria and parts of Switzerland employ a similar ban.

Migrant saves baby in Paris

Last Saturday, a 4-year-old left unattended was about to fall from a balcony in Paris. Mamoudou Gassama, a Malian migrant, pulled himself from balcony to balcony over four stories and saved the child. A petition was started calling for the savior to be granted legal status. This Monday, Gassama was greeted by French President Emmanuel Macron in the Elysee Palace, who commended his act and awarded him with a medal, promising a job with the French fire brigade as well. Macron responded to criticism from the far-right by saying that offering citizenship to Gassama was an exception, and stated that asylum cannot be given for economic reasons.

European Commission to fight marine litter

On Monday, the European Commission present its proposal regarding the removal of single-use plastics. The overall Plastics Strategy has as its final goal the removal of plastic litter from the continent’s beaches and waterways. 85% of all ocean litter is plastic and half of that is made up of single-use items such as straws, cotton buds and cutlery, as well as plastic plates. The Commission seeks to encourage alternatives for each of these items through restrictions. Other measures will also require better labelling in order to keep EU consumers informed about the products that they purchase.

Italian Populists get second run at forming government

On Friday, Giuseppe Conte was sworn in as PM of Italy, heading the new 5Star Movement and League government, with the presidents of both parties serving as vice premiers. Moreover, the president of the far-left 5SM, Luigi Di Maio will be minister of labor, while the League leader Salvini will be interior minister. The new executive, which obtained the approval of President Sergio Mattarella on Thursday, will likely have an Eurskeptic approach to issues. After Mattarella refused to approve the first Conte cabinet as it included the openly Eurosceptic Paolo Savona, the 5SM and the League named him EU affairs minister - and the president accepted it.

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