Saturday, January 6

Photo: AP/Emilio Morenatti


Negotiations commence to form new Catalan government

Photo: AP/Emilio Morenatti

Following snap elections late last year, Catalonia’s political parties are expected to kick-off negotiations to form a new government today.

With 70 seats required to form a majority, it is likely that separatist parties Together for Catalonia, Republican Left and Popular Unity Candidacy (34, 32 and 4 seats respectively) will again unite to lead the regional government.

A major stumbling block to the talks is the absence of key figures—Together for Catalonia’s leader and former president Carles Puigdemont remains exiled in Belgium, while Republican Left’s leader Oriol Junqueras is in jail following his role in last year’s referendum. With anti-independence parties lacking the numbers to form a majority coalition, Catalonia may struggle to meet its February 8 deadline to form a new government, unless Madrid drops criminal charges against the likely president and vice-president.

After Puigdemont and Junqueras’ parties both rejected another attempt at unilateral independence and expressed a desire to open dialogue with the national government, Madrid might find the leaders’ potential return to Catalonia easier to stomach.


Top diplomats discuss thawing of Turk-German relations

FM_German_TurkeyPhoto: AA

Turkey’s foreign minister will meet his German counterpart in Saxony today, as part of a push to smooth relations with one of the EU’s most influential members.

12 years after EU membership talks began, a German-led effort saw Turkey’s bid for accession put on ice last year. After trading barbs over human rights, terrorism and domestic politics, a March survey found 77% of EU citizens wanted to prevent Turkish membership—including 86% in Germany. For its part, Turkey declared it no longer needed membership, but wouldn’t initiate the process to cancel its bid.

Moving forward, both foreign ministers have stated a strong interest in repairing bilateral relations. European capital constituted 79% of foreign direct investment in Turkey last year, and Germany’s influence is crucial for improving bilateral relations within the bloc. For Berlin, Turkey’s NATO membership and role in stemming migration make it an essential regional partner.

Bilateral relations show signs of slow improvement. Regardless, Turkey’s application of emergency powers and implementation of an executive presidency in 2019 run counter to EU democratic standards and will likely keep talks of accession frozen for the near future.


Trump and GOP leadership seek new victories in 2018

Photo: White House/Shealah Craighead

Today, President Trump will fly to Camp David to plan the new year’s legislative agenda with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

With Republicans having failed to repeal Obamacare, the recently passed tax reform bill provided the party with a much-needed legislative victory after a year in power. The new law lowers the maximum corporate tax from 35% to 21%, while increasing standard deductions.

Now, Republicans must decide on what next to pursue. Mr Ryan already seems to be pushing cuts to welfare spending, though President Trump has promised not to cut said programs and Mr McConnell is concerned about voter backlash during 2018 midterms this fall.

With such different priorities, it is hard to say what will be the final outcome of this weekend’s meeting. Regardless, expect Republicans to attempt to get as much done as possible before November, when Democrats will get their chance to take back both the House and Senate.


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