News from the Capitals #2
Europe is a colourful continent in terms of policies and outcomes. It is essential to stay updated on how these policies may impact your work to build better regulatory frameworks, enhance your message and enhance communication with stakeholders.
Here you can find a summary of the major European political updates of this week.
On 13 February, Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a reshuffle of his ministerial cabinet following the recent general election. Shockingly, Sajid Javid resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) and replaced by rising Conservative star Rishi Sunak. The news comes after Javid refused to dismiss his advisors as a condition for being reappointed to the role. While Health and Social Care secretary Matt Hancock expressed his delight and honour of continuing to lead the NHS, Caroline Dinenage was replaced by Helen Whately as Minister of State for Care. The reshuffle has seen Johnson prioritise his team’s personal power over his government much more than balancing personnel. The power grab will have consequences for the health service as Johnson seeks to build a legacy in health policy.
In other news, former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP has been elected as Chair of the House of Commons’ Health and Social Care Committee, which scrutinises the government’s health and social care policies. His appointment has prompted questions over an alleged conflict of interest due to Hunt’s previous position. In a recent interview, Mr Hunt has sought to establish independence from the Conservative government by criticising its undeliverable pledges on workforce recruitment and hospital building.
On 5 February, the Free Democratic Party’s (FDP) Thomas Kemmerich was surprisingly elected as the new State Premier in Thuringia by the votes of FDP, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). This election led to various political resignations and tensions in Germany. On 6 February Lindner travelled to Thuringia to meet with Kemmerich, who resigned shortly after the meeting. Lindner asked for a vote of confidence by the FDP leadership, which led to a positive result and him staying as FDP’s leader. This incident caused Thuringian CDU-faction leader Mike Mohring to declare on 7 February that he will resign in May 2020, and CDU East delegate Christian Hirte to resign on 8 February after prompting by Chancellor Angela Merkel. The AfD threatened to press criminal charges against Chancellor Merkel, accusing her of coercion with Kemmerich and abuse of office. In addition, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer declared her resignation as CDU party leader and chancellor candidate on 10 February. The three currently debated candidates for the future CDU party leader are Armin Laschet, Prime Minister of North-Rhine Westphalia and former MEP, Friedrich Merz und Jens Spahn, Minister of Health, but no official candidacies have been declared yet. Traditionally, the CDU party leader is also the party’s chancellor candidate, making them a crucial policymaker. On 14 February it was stated that Kramp-Karrenbauer aims to propose a candidate on 24 February but will remain acting Minister of Defense. Currently, the FDP requests new elections for Thuringia, but this requires a two-third support of the Thuringian parliament. The LINKE, SPD, Grüne and CDU will meet on 17 February to discuss future perspectives.
On 24 February the Roman Parliament will vote on the new cabinet of Prime Minister Ludovic Orban from the National Liberal Party (PNL). After Orban’s cabinet was ousted by Parliament in a vote of no-confidence, President Klaus Iohannis (PNL) nominated him again to form a new government the following day. President Iohannis stated he would favour early elections, but for early elections to be legally called, Parliament must reject two nominations from the President for a new prime minister within a 60 day period. After his appointment, Mr. Orban announced that he would not change his cabinet and submitted his new cabinet list with the same Ministers on 10 February. The Social Democratic Party (PSD) lead by Marcel Ciolacu may not take part in the parliamentary vote in an attempt to delay approval of the cabinet. This is due to the fact that the PSD is not in favor of heading to elections, as they are currently significantly below its main rival (PNL) in the polls. The PNL government had been in place for three months after the previous PSD government fell.
Pension reform is still at the heart of France's political and social agenda. After several weeks of strikes, and negotiations between the Government and trade unions, the pension reform bill has been officially submitted to a special commission for review. However, many opposition MPs tabled thousands of amendments (19,000 out of 22,000) in order to slow down the examination and legislative process. The text of the bill will therefore be sent to a public session in its first version. The left-wing deputies intend to disrupt the debates during the public session by voting a motion of censure to prevent the government from adopting the text on the first reading before 3 March, leading to the activation of Article 49.3 of the Constitution. The use of this mechanism, which allows the government to adopt a text without a vote, will likely provoke strong social protests.
Galicia and the Basque Country will hold snap regional elections in April 2020. These two regions have held elections simultaneously for the past years. Likewise, Catalonia is expected to go to the polls in May, once the regional budget is approved. In Galicia, surveys give a tight majority to the conservatives (People’s Party, PP) who are now ruling in Galicia. Voters in the Basque Country are foreseen to keep the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) in power. Results do not seem as straightforward in Catalonia; there could be a pro-Catalonia independence government formed or a left-wing coalition, gathering both Catalan Republican Independentists (ERC), the socialist party (PSC) and Podemos (UP). The latter would eventually be in line with the central government and therefore the so-called “Catalan conflict” could deescalate.
In Madrid, the first complete plenary session is taking place this week in the Spanish Congress and MPs are discussing relevant topics in healthcare, namely the legalisation of euthanasia. In other news, the Council of Ministers has approved the centralised purchase of medicines equivalent to €391M. Some of the medicines will be used for the treatment of cancer.
You can find more information on European news in our EU national elections heatmap, where we provide an overarching perspective with key political insight for individual countries. Make sure to check it here.