This Week in Europe: Spanish elections, lead candidate debate and more

, by Pascal Letendre-Hanns, Radu Dumitrescu

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

This Week in Europe: Spanish elections, lead candidate debate and more
Image by Samuel Mork Bednarz.

Members of the TNF team recount big events from Europe from the past week, and point attention to news that may have passed notice. What did we miss? Comment on our Facebook page at !

Spanish socialists win election

On Sunday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialists evidently won the national election and are set to stay in power. With almost 29% of the vote and 123 seats in the 350-seat Parliament, the left-wing PSOE made a huge gain from the 85 seats they previously held. The runner-up is the center-right Popular Party, with 65 seats, followed by the liberal Ciudadanos with 57 and the far-left Podemos with 42 seats. The far-right party Vox also entered the legislative body, holding 24 seats. Still, the socialists will have to form a coalition - possibly with Podemos and regional parties - in order to form the needed majority. The election was a failure, on the other hand, for the conservative Popular Party, who got half the seats they held in the previous Parliament. Sánchez became prime minister last June when he won a motion of no-confidence against PP’s Rajoy with the help of Podemos and Basque and Catalan nationalists.

French ‘yellow vest’ candidates ally with the far-right

In France, the newly-created “jaunes et citoyens” (yellow and citizens) list of candidates for the European elections has allied with Les Patriotes, a far-right party formed by Florian Philippot, a longtime friend of Marine Le Pen. Both groups want to leave the EU and drop the euro, as the leader of the ‘jaunes et citoyens’ group Jean-Francois Barnaba revealed. They also want an increased purchasing power, direct democracy and fiscal and social justice. Observers have noticed that the yellow vest representatives will however be few and far between on the list, with Barnaba himself being in 9th place. The yellow vest leader also argued that he was forced to make the move after the group lost its source of funding.

Young Europeans care most about migration, environment and economy

This week, the YouGov platform and the TUI Foundation released a survey which revealed that young Europeans in most EU countries thought that migration, the environment and the economy were the key political problems of the bloc. Aged 16 to 26, most respondents still argued that the open borders of the EU were a positive thing, with only 27% opting against them. 55% of respondents also saw environmental policy as important for their own personal lives, with 43% saying that they engaged in political action over environmental protection in the past year. Most young people also believe that national elections are more important than European elections and that democracy is the best form of government (58%).

Most Brits think Brexit was a bad idea

A new poll released this week revealed that 55% of voting-age Brits believe their government should have never organized a referendum on EU membership. Initiated by the Conservative Party after its massive electoral win in 2015, the referendum is now thought of as a bad idea by 49% of Conservatives. Among Labour voters, 72% hold the same opinion. The same poll, however, shows Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party to be performing well, with 17% votes nationally. For the European elections taking place this month, the Brexit Party and the Labour Party rank at 28% of votes, the Conservatives at 14% and the pro-Remain Change UK at 7%.

Cyprus’ justice minister resigns over serial killer case

On Thursday, Cyprus’ justice minister Ionas Nicolaou resigned after the police forces under his supervision were criticized for how they handled the suspected serial killer’s crimes. In the past weeks, the bodies of four murdered women were found around the capital, Nicosia, with three more disappearances being investigated. The suspected is a 35-year-old career army officer. He confessed to seven killings in total, mostly women that he met through an online dating site - and mostly foreign. The first victim disappeared in September 2016 and now the police are being criticised for not investigating sooner.

Juncker: Netherlands, Austria, and Germany preventing Eurozone integration

This week, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told German newspaper Handelsblatt that three countries have been delaying the Eurozone reforms pushed by French President Emmanuel Macron - the Netherlands, Austria, and Germany. The three countries apparently fear to connect themselves to a deeper level with weaker economies, especially in the south of the continent. The countries “stand in the way when it comes to solidarity in action and joint responsibility”, said Juncker, “but many German politicians want to make progress in this area.” The outgoing Commission President argued that Eurobonds, jointly issued debt for eurozone members, will be a reality of the future, despite concerns in the German financial sector. Brexit has, in Juncker’s words, shown EU citizens that they must fight for the Union.

Weber, Timmermans, Verhofstadt and Keller debate in Florence

On Thursday night, the top candidates of four leading pro-EU political families took part in a debate organised by the European University Institute. Manfred Weber of the center-right EPP, Frans Timmermans of the center-left European Socialists, Guy Verhofstadt of ALDE and Ska Keller of the European Green Party argued for their vision for Europe. Topics included an European army, social and economic policies, and foreign policy.

Despite their disagreements, the candidates jointly complained that the member states were impeding integration in many domains. Verhofstadt stated that ALDE plans to dissolve after the European elections and to form a new centrist family in alliance with Emmanuel Macron’s “Renaissance” list, and protested the Spitzenkandidat process, arguing for a trans-national candidate list. Weber warned against populist and nationalist rhetoric and argued for the “essence of Europe - compromise” to be kept alive. Timmermans warned that the EU is fighting for survival and Ska Keller pointed to the environmental worries of the youth.

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