Tuesday, October 17, 2017

And on it Goes: European Political Struggles

It's difficult to cast an eye to the European news lately and garner much sense of optimism. I should declare at the outset that I am no expert on Europe and only approach the subject as an observer. That said, reading recent headlines out of the continent are certainly enough to give pause.

Last week I wrote about Catalonia and the political instability of Spain. A few weeks before that it was discussion of the rise of the AfD, a far right party, in Germany. Now, we have fresh stories out of the UK on its struggles with Brexit and the growing leadership challenge for Prime Minister Theresa May and far right victories in Austria. This does not make a rosy picture for Europe. While the situation is not as dire as that immediately following the economic collapse years ago, all the following events stem from that time to a certain degree.

The Catalonian situation remains a mess. Conflict continues between the central government in Madrid and secessionists. The constitutional court ruled the referendum illegal, but this will likely only spur divisions between separatists and unionists. Leadership on the Catalan side has been jailed. Surely this escalation would only result in worse outcomes.

Theresa May, leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is struggling to hold her party together and complete Brexit negotiations. The UK is less than 18 months away from being booted from the EU if they don't get a new deal in place. May suffers in the negotiations because of divisions within her own government. Conservatives cannot agree on the form of Brexit which is undermine British negotiations. May could be forced to drop Brexit, but who knows if such a thing would be possible anymore?

Austria's right-wing People's Party and Freedom Party made concerning gains in the most recent election earlier this week. The party will form government after running an anti-immigration, and anti-immigrant platform. The Freedom Party won second and has been a long-standing far right-wing party in Austria. Austria narrowly avoided this outcome in their presidential elections not long before, but it seems the voters of Austria are willing to give the new right a shot.

Looking at the last few weeks alone has been unpleasant for Europe. In Canada it would be quite easy to sit back and ignore what's happening across the Atlantic. However, it is always useful to be aware of trends, especially in some of the globe's largest economies and our closest allies.

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