The Austrian Supreme Court has ruled that existing laws making provision for civil partnerships and civil marriages violate non-discrimination rules. As a consequence same-sex couples have been permitted to get married and heterosexual couples have been allowed to enter into civil partnerships. The court case was brought by a lesbian couple who had been prohibited from entering into a same-sex marriage, however the Supreme Court ruled that the distinction between civil unions and marriages couldn’t be legally upheld. According to Reuters, the court said in its ruling “people living in same-sex partnerships have to disclose their sexual orientation even in situations, in which it is not relevant”. The ruling will allow for same-sex marriages to take place from 2019.
After the German election in September it was widely expected that Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance would form a coalition with the Greens, a centre-left environmentalist party, and the Free Democratic Party (FDP), a centrist party of classical liberals. The so-called ‘Jamaica coalition’ would likely have been a formal agreement between the CDU/CSU and one of the smaller parties with the third party brought in on a confidence and supply arrangement. As the weeks have passed the news about the negotiations has been that in some areas they have been contentious but nobody expected the news out of Berlin today. The coalition talks have failed and now it is unclear what lays ahead.
Throughout the entirety of the Catalan independence push of the last few months, the Spanish state has said that all its actions against Carles Puigdemont and other Catalan leaders has been justified because they are enforcing the constitution. Whilst this is a true statement, it has become apparent that many people in Catalonia are opposed to some aspects of this constitution, especially in cases where its rigid enforcement can cause such bloodshed. The Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis has signaled that this impasse may be resolved by allowing greater direct democracy in the country.
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.