News from the Capitals #40
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.
The results of the second round of the legislative elections have been released: President Macron now must govern with a relative majority (254 seats, while the absolute majority threshold is 289). Left-wing coalition NUPES obtained 131 seats, which is less than expected, while the RN reacheed a new high with 89 MPs. At last, Les Républicains managed to secure 61 seats, and could become a kingmaker for the new government.
While many pundits comment that these elections give a new preeminence to the Parliament, a reshuffle is already under way, as three ministers have been defeated in the elections (notably the Health and Ecological Transition ones). Macron gave a speech on June 22nd , saying he would not form a “national union” government, but would negotiate on an ad hoc basis to pass bills and reforms in the Assembly. For the moment, its leeway is extremely limited, and Macron has already announced that the launch of the “National Council for Refoundation” will be postponed.
Parliamentary groups have been formed (10 of them in total) and have chosen their presidents. The battle will now rage between RN and LFI to obtain the presidency of the highly strategic Finance committee. The new President of the Assembly will be elected on June 28th.
Meanwhile, the upper house remains active: a bill has been introduced in the Senate, which aims at regulating the recourse to consultancy firms by public administrations. This text comes timely after last year’s McKinsey scandal. Among other measures proposed, consultancies would have to declare the services they provide in a register similar to that which exists for lobbying activities (HATVP).
Both the Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton by-elections will take place today with the Conservatives in danger of losing both. As voters head to the ballot, pollsters have predicted that both constituencies will be closely contested. These by-elections could be very telling as they represent vastly different areas of the country: The Tiverton and Honiton constituency has been Conservative since its formation and boasts a large majority, whereas Wakefield was only won by the Conservatives at the last election by 3,000 votes. Given months of scandals and a growing cost of living crisis, it would not be a surprise to the Conservatives if they saw a loss in Wakefield, however Boris Johnson’s position may rest on the weight of the loss.
The cost-of-living crisis and freeze on public sector wage increases has seen the largest rail strikes for almost three decades take place this week. Following failed negotiations overpay and work conditions, 40,000 rail workers are striking causing major disruptions around the country. In response, the government has today introduced new legislation to end the ban on using agency staff to replace striking workers. The first round of strikes is set to end on Saturday with more scheduled for later in the summer if an agreement can’t be reached.
On the 21st of June the Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, ahead of the Council meeting on the 23-24 of June, went to the Senate to obtain the support for the resolution on Ukraine. The majority voted to continue helping Ukraine including sending arms, which was one of the crucial points of the vote. The parliamentary act passed to the Senate with 219 votes in favor, 20 votes against and 22 abstentions. This was an important test for Draghi’s Government which therefore seems to hold up.
Linked to this vote is the exit of the Foreign Minister, Luigi Di Maio, from the Five Star Movement. The rift within the movement over positions on Ukraine dealt the death blow, but the clashes between the M5S leader, Giuseppe Conte, and the Foreign Minister Di Maio had been going on for months. Furthermore, the dual mandate constraint, an internal rule of the M5S, may have pushed Luigi Di Maio to the decision to establish a new party, 'Together for the Future'. According to this morning's updates, 60 MPs would be willing to join the new party leading the Five Star Movement to no longer be the first party in the Government.
Regarding the mission n. 6, Health, of the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, the month of June is crucial. The Ministry of Health has signed the national development contracts with all the Regions and the Autonomous Provinces. Therefore, the first step for the realization of the New Territorial Health, the central point of mission n. 6 of the NRPP.
The President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, has announced that his Executive will lower the VAT on electricity from 10% to 5% to alleviate the rise in prices. He will do so in the extraordinary Council of Ministers next Saturday and has asked all the groups to support the royal decree with the new measures to deal with the effects of the war in Ukraine.
The Popular Party has achieved an undisputed victory in the regional elections of Andalusia this Sunday, June 19, with 58 deputies and 42% of the votes, with almost 100% of the votes counted, which guarantees it the absolute majority - set at 55 parliamentarians -. All this, against a PSOE that recorded its worst result in history with 31 seats and Ciudadanos (Cs) being left out of Parliament after being a partner of the PP in the first non-socialist government in the community, according to the data at the time of the election.
The popular Juanma Moreno thus achieves the first absolute majority in Andalusia since 2008, when the socialist Manuel Chaves reached 56 seats after achieving 61 parliamentarians four years earlier. The PP obtains more than double the number of seats and support at the polls in relation to the 2018 autonomous elections (when it achieved 26 deputies and 20.8% of the votes) and breaks all the historical ceilings of the party in Andalusia, which only won the autonomous elections in 2012 with Javier Arenas at the head with 50 seats, although it failed to reach the government due to the pact of PSOE and IU.
Mónica Oltra (vice-president and Spokesperson of the Valencian government) announced her resignation on Tuesday after her indictment for allegedly covering up the abuse of her ex-husband to a minor under guardianship. The former vice president said she made the decision because "she does not want the policies of the Botànic government to stop" and considered that her case "will go down in the history of infamy".
The President of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, presented this Wednesday in Brussels a European Union initiative to support the production of vaccines and the resilience of health systems in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Sánchez, who will participate next Thursday and Friday in the European Council meeting, met with Von der Leyen to discuss various issues on the European agenda.
Both presented the "Team Europe" initiative, which they consider to be an example of the importance that the European Union attaches to its relations with Latin American and Caribbean countries.
The President of the United States, Joe Biden, will hold meetings next week in Madrid with the King of Spain, Felipe VI, and the head of the Spanish Government, Pedro Sánchez, to reaffirm "the strong bilateral relationship".
Monday, the Belgian authorities returned the tooth of the murdered Congolese independence fighter, and its first premier, Patrice Lumumba, to his children at the Egmont Palace in Brussels. This is another step from Belgium to come to terms with recognising the atrocities committed during the African country's brutal exploitation as a colony.
Regarding, the war in Ukraine, Prime Minister De Croo confirmed to President Zelensky Belgium's support for Ukraine’s EU application. Indeed, De Croo announced that he met Wednesday afternoon with President Volodymyr Zelensky in light of the European Council happening today.
In Brussels, ritual slaughter upheld under pressure from religious groups. A motion by the centrist party Démocrate fédéraliste indépendant (DéFI), supported by the Flemish Greens and liberals, came to a close on June 17 in a very close vote – 42 against stunning animals before they are killed, 38 in favour, six abstentions. This motion was originally aimed at the harmonization of the different regions’ legislation as both Wallonia and Flanders have a mandatory stunning before slaughter. The question of animal welfare was put forward but quickly overshadowed by political and religious considerations as religious groups claim that both Kosher and Halal slaughter, when performed correctly, can cause less pain and suffering to animals than industrial slaughter.