The European Union prides itself on emission reduction, combating pollution and generally protecting the environment. There have been countless EU directives and regulations that require member states to monitor their levels of emissions and reduce these levels by certain threshold dates. This is some of the good work of the EU and should be commended by all who want to see climate change combated. However it appears that some of the agencies backed by the EU are not on the same page as the European Bank of Reconstruction Development (EBRD) has just announced that it will loan $500 million to SOCAR, the state-run oil company of Azerbaijan.
Angela Merkel has been re-elected as Germany’s Chancellor and, at the end of her new term, shall be the longest serving occupant of that office in Germany’s post-war history. However this achievement will likely be overshadowed by the arrival of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) into the Bundestag, the first far-right party to win parliamentary seats since 1960. The centre-left SPD did poorer than expected and the results begin to show a slight fragmentation of German politics away from the two main parties, the so-called volksparteien. The implications of this fragmentation will benefit minority parties but the significant advances for the AfD may mean that future discourse will be dominated by far-right voices.
French President Emmanuel Macron has signed into law decrees that attack the rights of people to collectively bargain and organise and allows employers to more easily fire staff. Trade unions have lambasted Macron’s actions. According to France 24 Philippe Martinez, the General Secretary of the CGT, said the decrees give “full powers to employers” at the expense of workers. Although some measures will not be implemented until next year, the decrees are part of Macron’s plan to liberalise the French economy to improve productivity and cut unemployment. However the government’s blatant disregard for the concerns of working people will not be forgotten any time soon.
On 1st October the people of Catalonia will go to the polls to vote on whether or not the autonomous community should secede from Spain. There have been many challenges to this process, chief among which is that it isn’t actually legal, but the Catalan government are treating it as politically binding despite the protestations of Madrid. There has been much talk about the political divisions between both the Catalan and Spanish governments, and Mariano Rajoy and Catalan politicians in a personal capacity. However there is an important aspect of this issue that has not been considered.
On 25th September the people of Iraqi Kurdistan will vote on whether or not to secede from Iraq and become an independent nation-state. Unsurprisingly this has caused much consternation in both Baghdad and Ankara however analysts are nonetheless expecting a clear majority of Kurds to vote for independence. The problem facing the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has been one of legitimacy as the Iraqi government have refused to legally permit a referendum from taking place, and therefore it would be unclear as to how the international community would react. This week the KRG and international Kurdish liberation movement received a boost from the man seeking to become Germany’s next Chancellor.
Described by some as the Mediterranean’s ‘liberal paradox’, the small island state of Malta has embraced LGBT rights at some one the fastest paces in the world despite its majority Catholic population. Same-sex cohabitation were first regulated in 2012 and civil unions were legalised in 2014. The Civil Unions Act of 2014 guaranteed that gay couples had all the same rights as married heterosexual couples including the right to jointly adopt children, a freedom that in many states where same-sex marriage was legalised earlier took many more years to achieve. Malta has now gone one step further and legalised same-sex marriage, only three years after civil unions were first introduced.
France has announced that by 2040 all petrol and diesel vehicles will be banned. This follows the example of Norway who also pledged to ban all fossil fuel-powered cars by 2025. France’s ban is more sweeping than Norway’s, however, as Norway’s ban made no reference to commercial vehicles like vans and lorries. The French Minister of Environment, Energy and Marine Affairs Nicolas Hulot said that “the end of the sale of petrol or vehicles between now and 2040”. This is a fantastic step forward and it shows how some countries in Europe are taking climate change seriously. Continue reading →