The Hurdles Facing Macron’s Brave New European UnionBy
Germany, the U.K. and Hungary offered French President Emmanuel Macron forceful reminders of the considerable hurdles facing his proposals to bring the European Union closer together.
With German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic-led bloc and the Social Democrats embroiled in coalition talks, there’s little appetite in Europe’s largest economy for far-reaching changes in EU governance. The would-be partners have subtly different interpretations even of the limited EU measures they agreed on at talks yesterday, according to party officials.
Brexit also threatens more bloodletting after Prime Minister Theresa May insisted that EU nationals moving to the U.K. during a two-year transition after it leaves the bloc in March 2019 should have fewer rights than those who arrived earlier. Brussels disagrees. May’s already facing renewed pressure from her party’s right wing who say she’s making too many concessions in the Brexit negotiations.
Meanwhile, a Hungarian ruling party official warned that Macron may “destroy” the EU if he tries to impose “liberal values” on eastern European members pursuing authoritarian policies seen by other states as increasingly at odds with the union’s principles.
The brave new EU faces many of the same challenges that dogged the old one.
Memo maneuvers | Democrats accused House Republicans of secretly altering a memo alleging the FBI and Justice Department overstepped their authority in opening the Russia probe. FBI Director Christopher Wray also entered the dispute, telling the White House the memo shouldn’t be publicly released because it contains inaccuracies and paints a false narrative. But the GOP lawmaker who co-wrote the document, Devin Nunes, is pushing ahead, arguing officials are stonewalling the House Intelligence Panel he chairs.
GOP dilemma | While Trump’s re-election committee is boasting of a record $22.1 million it’s raised for his 2020 campaign bid, House and Senate Republicans are more worried about November’s midterms, with Democrats gaining momentum in the money race in key districts. GOP members are meeting this week to thrash out whether they should strike a softer tone to appeal to moderate voters or pursue a harder policy line to woo Trump’s core supporters.
Kim’s peace ploy | North Korean athletes arrived in South Korea ahead of next week’s Winter Olympics, which have led to at least a temporary thaw in a conflict that has raised fears of nuclear war. Yet as Andy Sharp and Kanga Kong write, it’s hard not to envision geopolitical tensions returning in short order once the Olympic flame is doused.
Five Star and the banks | Luigi Di Maio, the anti-establishment candidate in Italy’s general election next month, emerged from a meeting with investors in London yesterday with a pledge to help banks seize the assets of troubled borrowers. In an interview with John Follain, he said he wants to eliminate the “Byzantine laws” that see lenders tied down in court for years.
Putinism after Putin | With his re-election to a fourth and likely final term all but assured in March, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s key challenge is sustaining Putinism once he gives up power. He’s road-testing a cadre of young contenders as potential successors, capable of ruling the world’s largest country while also guaranteeing his own security once he leaves the Kremlin.
And finally… She’s been dubbed the “Maybot” at home after her disastrous election campaign last year, but Theresa May has an altogether more cuddly image with the Chinese who call her “Auntie May,” according to a state television interviewer. It’s a double-edged compliment in a country that refers to older women as auntie, but the U.K. Prime Minister, more often called “Madam Brexit” in Europe, chose to be flattered by it.
— With assistance by Michael Winfrey