Thursday, January 04, 2018

Quick Little State of the World for 2018: Europe

It's 2018 now and we in the United States are mesmerized by the daily Trump Show. And yet, this  overshadows the rest of the world - and we forget about the rest of the world to our detriment.

Therefore, time for a little, What's Going On In the World with Scooter....

Today: Europe

Here are main issue areas coming to a boil over the next few weeks / months.

1. England / UK vs. the European Union

Great Britain voted to exit the European Union in 2016. The officially gave notice on March 29, 2017 - which gives them 2 years to come to closure with the rest of the EU on terms.

The movement on the trade / treaty front has been sporadic. England wants access to the EU markets, but not to let Europeans move to England. There are two huge roadblocks that are slowly being discussed before things move on other fronts.

1.a: Ireland / Northern Ireland border. The long war in Ireland and Northern Ireland (remember the IRA bombings?) was effectively ended with Britain's entry into the EU. The border became (to us Americans) more like the state border between Minnesota and Wisconsin, than a national border like the US and Mexico. Everyone could pretend it would always be like this forever - and the fighting stopped.  This is particularly touchy as Northern Ireland as an area voted to remain in the EU, but the country as a whole voted to leave. Even more touchy as the minority government of England right now depends on tiny, but rather vocal, anti-EU / anti-Ireland Unification party from Northern Ireland.

1.b: What the British "owe" the EU.  From the EU's perspective, England was part of the budgeting process over the next 5 - 10 years, and the EU wants their payment for programs started. This is a rather huge bill. Britain, stuck wanting preferential trade treatment, can't really tell them to pound sand.

Both 1.a and 1.b need to be well on their way towards being resolved before the rest of the negotiations can fully start.  We are 10 months into a 24 month deadline before they just leave / are kicked out.

2. Germany
Germany voted many weeks ago. We all remember how happy we were Angela Merkel won. Well, she didn't win (like we think of it) she "won". That is, Germany has lots of parties (and votes are distributed not on first place wins, but a percentage of the vote system). While Ms. Merkel's party won the most votes, she did not win 50.1%, and so needs a coalition partner. She hasn't found one yet (and doesn't want the right-wing party as a partner). There doesn't seem to be an easy answer in sight.

3. Poland
Poland is indicative of a problem the European Union has let fester and now doesn't have an answer to.  That is, what do you do when a member of the European Union starts acting antithetical to democracy? The EU is based, not just on a capitalistic system, but with the idea that the country's are functioning or semi-functioning democracies.  First Hungary, and now Poland, have moved to semi-authoritarian governments.  Hungary has described their system as an "Illiberal Democracy".

When this was just Hungary, the EU tried to wait it out. But Poland has gone the same way - changing laws to benefit only the government in power, wholesale removal of judges and rewriting the constitution. The EU doesn't have a good answer to this. They COULD kick Poland out (or find some odd sort of "probation"), but it requires unanimity and Hungary would object.  They should have made Hungary an example when they could, now they are in trouble.

AND, it doesn't help that Germany doesn't have a government to push the issue (see #3)

4. Ukraine
Things are improving in the Ukraine, through now help of it's own. Generally fighting in the far east of the country is waning, because Russia - the separatists' defacto backer - isn't getting anything out of it. It isn't helping Putin and is a drain on everyone, so it is just petering out.  That is about as good as news gets right now.
In non-news. The rest of the continent is doing reasonable well (Turkey we save for another day).

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